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Northwestern edges Utah in Las Vegas Bowl

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Ben Bryant passed for 222 yards and two touchdowns and Jaheem Joseph hauled in two interceptions to help Northwestern edge Utah 14-7 on Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Bryant connected with Bryce Kirtz for a go-ahead 19-yard touchdown pass with 6:19 remaining. The Wildcats forced the Utes into a turnover on downs at the Northwestern 38-yard line on the ensuing possession and ran out the clock to seal the victory.

One season after finishing 1-8, the Wildcats completed a remarkable turnaround, finishing 8-5 and capturing the program’s fifth successive bowl victory just a few months removed from a preseason hazing scandal.

The turmoil cost longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald his job, but the Wildcats’ resiliency allowed replacement David Braun to take the reins of the program after starting the fall with the “interim” tag.

The Utes (8-5) have lost five straight bowls, including two against Northwestern. Utah punted seven times, threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and had two turnovers on downs.

Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes was 8-for-13 for 55 yards and threw two interceptions. Ja’Quinden Jackson ran eight times for 55 yards, while Micah Bernard rushed for a 6-yard touchdown to tie the score with 12:38 left.

Northwestern outgained Utah 290-211.

Five of the Utes’ seven first-half possessions resulted in punts, with the other two ending with Barnes throwing an interception. After losing 21 yards on its first two series, Utah appeared to be stringing momentum together on the team’s third drive, marching eight plays and 55 yards before an interception.

Barnes threw another interception to Joseph on the ensuing Utah possession, and Joseph returned the ball 45 yards to the Utah 7. The Utes held strong, however, forcing a turnover on downs when Bryant threw incomplete for Charlie Mangieri on fourth-and-goal from the Utah 1 with 9:13 remaining in the second quarter.

The teams traded punts before the Wildcats secured the game’s first score. A 12-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to Johnson capped an eight-play, 78-yard drive with 1:20 remaining before halftime.

Utah quickly went three and out again, but the Wildcats were unable to capitalize as kicker Jack Olsen missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in the second quarter. Olsen missed from 51 yards on Northwestern’s second possession of the game.

–Field Level Media

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